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The William Inge Collection began in 1965 with the gathering of press clippings, memorabilia and booksabout Independence’s native son and Independence Community College alum William Inge. In 1969, Inge gave the college the original manuscripts of Picnic, Come Back, Little Sheba, Natural Affection, and Splendor in the Grass for the collection which found a permanent home in ICC’s library. In 1976, Inge’s sister, Helene Inge Connell, donated the playwright’s private collection of 1,629 books according to his expressed wishes. In 1980, Mrs. Connell added Inge’s record collection.
With the support of Independence Community College and a grant from the Arco Foundation, the collection was officially opened on October 25, 1981, with an opening ceremony, tours of the collection, and a special reception in honor of Helene Inge Connell.
The dedication of the William Inge Collection in 1981 was the beginning of a period of tremendous growth for the Collection. Dr. Arthur McClure, Chairman of the history department at Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, Missouri, donated a large collection of motion picture related materials, books, pictures and records. International Creative Management (ICM), Inge’s literary agent, donated some one hundred manuscripts and books. And, Helene Inge Connell donated two manuscripts in addition to books, records, programs, clippings and correspondence. Significant donations came from other family members and friends. These gifts have made the William Inge Collection at Independence Community College the most extensive collection on William Inge in existence.
At the heart of the Collection are some four hundred manuscripts. Represented are full length plays, screenplays, one-act plays, novels and short stories. Various versions of all the Broadway plays are included in the Collection, as well as some of the earlier produced plays and one-act plays that were to become successful Broadway plays. For example, Farther Off From Heaven and Front Porch, which were written in the 1940’s, were revised by Inge in the 1950’s and became The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Picnic respectively. A one-act play, People in the Wind, was expanded and became the popular Broadway play, Bus Stop.
In addition to various versions of the Broadway plays, the Collection has versions of many of the other one-act plays that have either been produced or published. Included in the Collection are versions of the various screenplays such as Splendor in the Grass, versions of the novels Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff and My Son is a Splendid Driver, and some unpublished short stories.
To complement the Collection of original manuscripts are the published works, including many translations. In addition, there are over one hundred critical and biographical sources and over fifty theatre programs, including the playbill copy for all of the Broadway productions and programs from significant non-Broadway presentations.
A unique feature of Inge’s plays is that several have become successful motion pictures. The Dickinson Foundation of Mission, Kansas, has provided the Collection with copies of 16-mm movies of Bus Stop, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and The Stripper (which is based on the play A Loss of Roses) and Splendor in the Grass. In 1982, Home Box Office, Inc., gave the Collection videocassettes of its theatre production of Bus Stop.
Along with the motion pictures and television plays are many motion picture lobby cards, posters, still pictures and pressbooks. All of the motion picture versions of Inge’s plays are represented in this collection of materials, including Come Back, Little Sheba, Picnic, Bus Stop, The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The Stripper, Splendor in the Grass, Bus Riley’s Back in Town and All Fall Down, a screenplay adaptation by Inge of James Leo Herlihy’s novel by the same title. Still pictures of various actors and actresses like Shirley Booth, William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty and many others are in the Collection.
Like Sonny in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Inge collected pictures of movie stars as a child; seven of these are part of the photograph collection. Also included are sixty photographs covering the life of William Inge, from candid shots to studio portraits.
Unique items in the Collection include school friendship books signed by Inge, his first teacher’s contract, advertisements and broadsides for various performances of his works and the Inge family genealogy.
At this time, the Collection contains about one hundred twenty pieces of correspondence. Thirty-six letters are written by Inge. A number of these letters were donated to the Collection by JoAnn Kirchmaier, a niece with whom Inge kept in contact most of his life. Some letters are to colleagues like Ned Rorem, the writer and composer, while other are to friends and family acquaintances. The content and length of these letter vary widely. Also included are eighteen items written to Inge and nineteen items related in some way to Inge’s works. The remainder of the correspondence concerns the establishment of the William Inge Collection and the naming of The William Inge Theatre at the Independence Community College.
Another unique aspect of the Collection is thirty four taped interviews of friends, relatives, and colleagues. Three of the interviews are with William Inge and the others include Elia Kazan and Joshua Logan, who directed Inge plays and films based on Inge works, actors such as Pat Hingle, theatre colleagues like Jo Mielziner, who designed the stage setting for Picnic, and William Gibson, playwright and friend of Inge. Other interviews are with friends, neighbors, and schoolmates from Independence, Kansas, friends at the University of Kansas, Stephens College, and from Inge’s St. Louis days.
The William Inge Collection has 1629 books from William Inge’s personal library. He had a large number of American and English literature books. Inge also had a large collection of phonograph records; about six hundred of these are in the William Inge Collection. The records are mainly classical music recordings with a fair representation of jazz from the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s. In addition to appreciating good literature and music, Inge had a life-long interest in art and was considered an astute collector. His interest in art is reflected not only in the large number of art books and exhibition catalogs in his personal library, but also in some nineteen drawings and three watercolors done by Inge and housed in the William Inge Collection.
The Inge Collection is currently closed as it is being relocated. It will be open again to visitors Monday – Thursday from 8:00am – 4:00pm, beginning in April 2016. Special arrangements for researchers to work in the collection may be made after that date.
Director of Library Services, Curator of the Inge Collection
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